What is the point of UKIP now?

Having posted this yesterday, by some coincidence The Guardian report today that UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, has pledged to professionalise the party and purge it of ‘Walter Mittys seeking a role in politics”.

Now, I appreciate I am not really the target market for UKIP. They appear to provide a home for the more right-wing, old-fashioned style Tories disaffected with the direction of the Conservative Party. To be frank, I don’t share their views on much. I am a little Euro-critical, though not for the majority of reasons outlined by UKIP (I tend more to the democratic socialist tradition of Tony Benn et al – the reasons are primarily democratic).

Nevertheless, I will say this in UKIP’s defence: they largely adhere to the principle of free expression despite views not always tallying with mainstream opinion. For example, in defence of David Silvester – the UKIP councillor who argued recent floods were the result of gay marriage – a UKIP spokesperson stated the following:

If the media are expecting Ukip to either condemn or condone someone’s personal religious views they will get absolutely no response.

Whether Jain or Sikh or Buddhist or Sufi or Zoroastrian or Jewish or Muslim or Baptist or Hindu or Catholic or Baha’i or Animist or any other mainstream or minor religion or movement, we are taught as a tolerant society to accept a diversity of ideologies.

Freedom to individual thought and expression is a central tenet of any open-minded and democratic country. It is quite evident that this is not the party’s belief but the councillor’s own and he is more than entitled to express independent thought despite whether or not other people may deem it standard or correct.

That is what makes the United Kingdom such a wonderful, proud, diverse and free country.

Indeed, despite this view neither being standard nor correct, the UKIP response is to be commended.

However, this laudable position – the sole reason UKIP stand apart from any other party – is soon to go by the wayside as Nigel Farage seeks to rid the party of those who hold contrary views. Perhaps this is inevitable as UKIP increasingly head into the mainstream and seek to rival the Conservatives on the right, just as the Liberals sought to challenge Labour on the left. Sadly, the one thing that made UKIP a tolerable presence in British politics – the laudable desire to at least allow dissenting, contrary and often downright barmy views a place in public life – will now no longer be. 

With other parties seeking a realignment with the EU, and significant numbers across the political spectrum having found the British relationship with Europe uncomfortable at best, the only question that remains, given this change of tack, what is the point of UKIP?